Wednesday 18 October 2017

It's loyalty that has me at Wentworth instead of the US – Harrington

Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington

Karl MacGinty

Padraig Harrington's hopes of building on the promise of last week's performance in Dallas would have been far better served if he'd driven an hour up the road to Fort Worth last Sunday night rather than hop on a transatlantic flight to London for the BMW PGA Championship.

The Dubliner appeared to find the putting touch and confidence which helped establish him a three-time Major champion at the HP Byron Nelson Championship as he posted three successive rounds in the 60s for the first time in 34 months.

Colonial Country Club, venue for this week's Crowne Plaza Invitational, certainly would be a more comfortable choice of venue for Harrington than Wentworth, where he has consistently been bemused by the complexities of the West Course, especially its greens.

Yet Harrington has been lured to Surrey's leafy suburbs by his loyalty to his 'home' Tour, with the opportunity to reconnoitre the Old and New Courses at Walton Heath, venue for next Monday's 36-hole US Open qualifier, a real bonus.

"Yes. I'm here purely because it's the flagship event of the European Tour," he confirmed.

DIFFICULT

"It doesn't suit my schedule and I find the golf course very difficult. There are a lot of reasons not to be here and one big reason why I am.

"It's loyalty," Harrington added. "Basically, I come back every second year, Ryder Cup years, for the European Tour and I invariably arrive optimistic that it's all going to change around and I'll love the place and have a great year.

"So that's the way I go about it, though it would have been easier to drive up the road an hour to Colonial," he explained.

Harrington (pictured) enjoyed quite impressive form at Wentworth when the World Match Play Championship used to be played here each autumn, even shooting 62 in the 2001 final before losing over 36 holes to Ian Woosnam.

Yet Wentworth's greens have long confounded him in May and he admitted yesterday: "It is playing extremely tough. You've got to take the right attitude out there."

After five barren years on the world's top two tours since clinching his third Major title in 13 months at the 2008 PGA Championship, Harrington was ineligible for last month's Masters and must qualify for the upcoming US Open at Pinehurst.

He made big strides in Dallas, even if wayward shooting off the tee during Sunday's four-over-par 74 dropped him to 22nd.

One hopes Harrington's well-intentioned return to his old nemesis this week will not set him back.

Wentworth, inevitably, will suit master strategists like 50-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez, whose 27-year quest for a first Spanish Open victory sensationally ended at PGA de Catalunya last weekend.

Yet even the redoubtable 'Mechanic', BMW PGA Champion in 2008, may find it difficult to pull off back-to-back victories, so the nod goes to Luke Donald.

Best of the 10 Irish? A decent performance by Paul McGinley in Spain and an impressive track record around his 'local' course suggests the Ryder Cup captain, provided he overcomes a slight muscle strain incurred in the gym.

BMW PGA CHAMPIONSHIP,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 10.0AM

CROWNE PLAZA INVITATIONAL,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 8.0PM

Irish Independent

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